Founded in 2009 in the heart of Appalachian country, West Virginia, Smooth Ambler is an award winning craft distillery founded by TAG Galyean and John Little. Through an ethos of honesty, hard work, and the finest local ingredients combined with state-of-the-art equipment, Smooth Ambler has gained a large loyal following of whiskey and spirit drinkers. Having initially built their name on their openly-sourced whiskey stocks from MGP ingredients in Indiana, bottled under their Old Scout brand, recent years have seen Smooth Ambler’s own whiskies reach maturity and released in limited amounts to eager fans.
In January of 2017 a Smooth Ambler press release went viral throughout the bourbon world. The release informed loyal fans of the progress of their own distillate and delivered the news that their stocks of sourced Old Scout bourbon and rye had been depleted to the point where custom single barrel offerings of both would no longer be sustainable. I would like to be able to say that the statement was received with grace and that those same loyal fans were excited for what Smooth Ambler had coming down the pipeline in the future: but the reality was chaos. Within weeks Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout bottlings started disappearing off shelves as panicked fans started hoarding bottles and what remained of store picks were snapped up even quicker. The news wasn’t entirely surprising considering Smooth Ambler had warned that the demand massively outstripped supply of their sourced whiskies. Even with this in mind, the end result was the same and Old Scout bourbon and rye are now a very rare sight on store shelves. Amidst all this chaos, however, Smooth Ambler still consistently release a single barrel of bourbon and rye from their dwindling supply every year at their distillery. This gives die-hard fans the chance to still get their Old Scout fix on a much smaller scale. Similar to their now-gone store picks, both the single barrel bourbon and rye that are released are age-stated, barrel proof offerings, which are as always non-chill filtered and reasonably costed.
Today I’ll be reviewing the 2017 Limited Edition Rye release by Smooth Ambler. In the UK we’re lucky enough to receive a very small allocation of Smooth Ambler’s annual bourbon and rye releases but bottles do disappear in mere nanoseconds (as I learned the hard way when this release hit). 2017 saw the release of a 10 year old rye whiskey under the Old Scout label. The whiskey itself is from Smooth Ambler’s remaining aged MGP rye whiskey stock (hence the Old Scout label) and every year is released another year older – this year’s release was an 11 year old rye whiskey. The entire barrel yielded approximately 162 bottles so these were very thin on the ground for all.
Name: Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye Single Barrel Limited Release
Age: 10 years old
Proof: 118.6 Proof (59.3% ABV)
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Mashbill: 95% rye, 5% malted barley
Producer: Smooth Ambler Distillery (Sourced from MGP)
Nose: The nose is sweet, spicy and floral with deep caramel, floral vanilla and dill, baking spices, cinnamon, white pepper and slight faint smokey oak and a touch of menthol.
Palate: The palate is viscous with sweet caramel mixing with red fruit and dill, fades to floral vanilla, sweet cinnamon, white pepper spice, and slight minty oak.
Finish: The finish follows the palate with a wave of white pepper spice followed by red fruit and cinnamon, leaving an aftertaste of minty oak and baking spices.
A stunning rye – no surprises there. From the moment you smell it you can tell this is an MGP rye but its big, bold, and spicy flavours set it far apart from anything I’ve had in the past from either Smooth Ambler or their competitors that also source from MGP. The fact that the only filtering used was to remove the big char pieces has also resulted in the flavours being as close to straight from the barrel as possible, and I would be lying if I did nit admit that this is one of my personal Top 10 rye whiskies. It has always been my opinion that Smooth Ambler are one of a few craft distilleries to keep a very close eye on and this release just proves this point further. It’s true they didn’t make this whiskey themselves but this business requires a good deal more than just being able to make good whiskey. The skills Smooth Ambler’s team have demonstrated in picking incredible barrels with their further maturation are second to none and this release is another success in a long line of previous successes. This is an excellent example of the fantastic rye whiskies that fans have come to expect from the Old Scout line and also shines quite well on MGP’s ability to make amazing rye whiskey. Of the MGP rye whiskies that I have tasted, Smooth Ambler’s barrels always stand a head taller in terms of complexity, balance, and overall enjoy-ability, a fact that many have put down to Smooth Ambler picking the best barrels available from MGP.
For fans of these releases there seems to be hope on the horizon. As well as their own distillate, Smooth Ambler also have a large number of Old Scout casks that are currently maturing in their rickhouse. What this means is that this limited release will continue to climb in age for the next two/three years before these barrels mature and their whiskey finds its way into this release. Many also hope that when these barrels are mature that we’ll also see a return of Old Scout bourbon and rye whiskies on store shelves but only time will tell. In the meantime keep an eye out for these releases as they always offer fans a truly delicious whiskey to help them through their Smooth Ambler Old Scout withdrawal symptoms.
Try or Buy?
It’s an age-stated, cask strength, minimally filtered MGP rye that blows the roof off the place so what’s not to love? If you like your MGP ryes this is definitely one to look out for! Buy, 100%.